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Air Progress: The Search for Speed
November 1950 Air Trails

November 1950 Air Trails
November 1950 Air Trails Cover - Airplanes and Rockets Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

Douglas Rolphe ran a series of "Air Progress" and "Auto Progress" features similar to this one where he included line drawings and short factoids on each vehicle, with a timescale of sorts that shows progression in the state of the art. "The Search for Speed" has, as you might guess early model aircraft that were designed for racing and/or setting speed records. Many were one-of-a-kind and might make excellent subjects for scale builds in any of the competition categories - radio control, control line, free flight, or even static display.

Air Progress: The Search for Speed

By Douglas Rolfe

Presented on these pages we find a selection of racing planes which, despite the fact that each made an important contribution to Air Progress, have nevertheless passed into comparative if not complete oblivion. The best explanation for this state of affairs is that few if any of the designs shown here were winners in any major racing contest, though two at least established world's speed records in their day.

All designs have been carefully chosen to illustrate the widely varying approach made by top-notch designers of the times to the same problem, i.e.; speed. And a mere glance at- the names involved will show that most of these designs came from the drafting rooms and assembly plants of historically famous manufacturers many of whom are still just as well known today.

The wide variation between actual speed and the horsepower used is another point of interest. It will be observed that some of the lower-powered planes attained speeds far beyond, comparatively speaking, their higher-powered rivals. This situation is of course true today, when the design problem of producing a really fast piston-engine airplane is just as much a problem as it was to the men who brought forth the planes portrayed here.

At least one of the firms represented, notably the Gloster Aircraft Co., is still making some of the world's fastest aircraft; this indicates the importance of racing plane development.

1921 Thomas-Morse Army Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1921 Thomas-Morse Army Racer

400 H.P. Wright-Hispano Engine. - A 1921 Pulitzer Contestant. Top Speed, 162 MPH.

1924 Aero 18-B Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1924 Aero 18-B Racer

300 H.P. Walter Engine. - This little Czech racer averaged 164-M.P.H. over a closed course.

Gloster III Schneider Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1925 Clean Lines

Frontal view of the Gloster III Schneider Racer reveals the trim lines and small wing span of this 25-year old float biplane

1925 Macchi 33 Schneider Cup Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1925 Macchi 33 Schneider Cup Racer

450 H.P. Curtiss D-12 engine. - Top speed was about 250 M.P.H. and though produced 25 years ago it would be regarded as good design today

1927 Kirkham Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1927 Kirkham Racer

1,250 H.P Packard 24-Cylinder X-type engine. In this ship Al Williams established a speed record (unofficial) of 322 M.P.H.

1929 Nieuport-Delage - Airplanes and Rockets

1929 Nieuport-Delage 1,200HP

Hispano-Suiza 18-cylinder engine. Built for the 1929 Schneider Tropy Contest but finished too late to participate in the actual race. - Est. speed, 400 M.P.H.

1922 Verville-Sperry Army Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1922 Verville-Sperry Army Racer

400 H.P. Wright-Hispano Engine (also, later, 500 H.P. Curtiss D-12 Special). This low-wing airplane with fully retractable landing gear had a top speed of 191 M.P.H., was far in advance of most contemporary designs.

1924 Bernard-Ferbois Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1924 Bernard-Ferbois Racer

450 H.P. Hispano-Suiza 3-row engine. - In 1925 it set a world's record speed for landplanes when it topped 278 M.P.H.

1925 Gloster III. Schneider Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1925 Gloster III. Schneider Racer

1275 H.P. Napier 3-Row 18-cylinder engine. It placed second in the 1925 Schneider races with an average speed of 200 M.P.H. and in subsequent trials attained a speed of 234 M.P.H.

1927 Gloster IV Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1927 Gloster IV Racer

1275 H.P. Napier Lion 18-cylinder engine. - A Runner-up in the 1927 Schneider Cup Races it had attained a top speed of 294 M.P.. during preliminary flights.

1931 Lorraine-Hanriot 41  - Airplanes and Rockets

1931 Lorraine-Hanriot 41

230 HP. Lorraine radial engine. Top speed was 161 M.P.H. - Truly remarkable in view of the relatively low engine power employed in this trim design which won the 1931 Coupe Michelin.

1930 Curtiss Racer - Airplanes and Rockets

1930 Curtiss Racer

600 H.P Curtiss Conqueror 12-cylinder engine. After averaging 207 M.P.H. For several laps in the 1930 Thompson Trophy Contest it crashed killing the Marine pilot 

Douglas Rolfe Drawings



Posted October 8, 2016

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